WJTV News Channel 12 - Separation of church and license plate: Holy terms on TN’s banne

Separation of church and license plate: Holy terms on TN’s banned list

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TRI-CITIES, TN (WJHL) -

People use personalized license plates to showcase everything from their favorite sports teams to their favorite hobbies. But what is exactly allowed on the plates? And what isn't? The answer seems to be changing.

News Channel 11 started digging into banned license plates in Tennessee and found everything from the downright dirty to divine.

Earlier this year, we combed through hundreds of personalized plate terms and put together a feature story with a little bit of humor, but things turned serious when we found terms that seemed out of place among the absurd and the objectionable.

According to the state of Tennessee, officials do not keep track of the license plate requests that are rejected. However, they do have a spreadsheet of terms they told news channel 11 were not allowed.

Among the nearly one thousand "objectionable terms" are the terms "1Bible", "Jesus", "JLord", “Lord” and “Yaweh,”

After combing through the list, the only religious terms on the states list of "objectionable data" were Christian.

We are in the buckle of the bible belt," says Pastor Vic Young of Fountain of Life Church who is an authority on the "separation of church and state".

He believes this disconnect is as much geographical as it is biblical.

“It is common knowledge that middle Tennessee thinks we are antiquated and hillbillies,” said Pastor Young.

To get answers from the state about why the Christian terms were on the list, we took our findings to 1st District Representative John Lunberg.

"it's my job to represent the people of east Tennessee," said Lunberg.

That’s when the answers started changing.

“The list pretty clearly says “lord1”, when I asked about the list, they told me it's not a doctrine," said Lunberg.

After we started questioning the Christian terms on the list, the state told us the words on the list that previously would not be approved would be looked at much closer.

"I think no one has questioned the process -- what's approved and not approved, " and Lunberg.

Lunberg says lawmakers may need to take a look at the entire process.

As we continued to question the state, they did say that there are other religious plates on the roads - including “Bible4U”, “Buddah” and “Allah”.

The state also says if a license plate has been rejected, there is an appeal process you can go through.

So how did the Christian terms end up on the state's list of "objectionable material" in the first place? We still don't know, but we'll keep pushing for answers.

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